We’re now firmly into 2021 and the big flagship phone releases are coming thick and fast. Two of the biggest we’ve seen so far are the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Xiaomi Mi 11.
These are two of the first phones to come packing the super-efficient Qualcomm 888 chipset and they give an idea of the big features we should expect to hit loads of the best Android phones over the coming months.
While we’ve fully reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, we’ve yet to spend enough time with the Xiaomi Mi 11. So, for now, this will be a look at how the two phones differ in terms of specs, features and design.
Pricing and availability – Don’t want to spend a grand?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 starts at £769 €849/$799 and it is available to buy now. This is a big reduction over the outgoing Galaxy S20. By launching at £799, Samsung undercuts the price of Apple’s iPhone 12 in some regions.
We’re still waiting for final pricing and UK release date for the Mi 11, however it will be €749 which undercuts the S21 by quite a lot.
Design and Screen – Is the Galaxy S21 ahead of the curve?
- The Samsung Galaxy S20 packs a 6.2-inch 1080p display with a 120Hz refresh rate
- If you want more, the Xiaomi Mi 11 has a 120Hz 1440p 6.81-inch panel
Samsung really switched up its design for the Galaxy S21, building the camera module into the overall look and ditching the curves that have defined the series for a number of years.
|Samsung Galaxy S21||71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9 (mm)||172g|
|Xiaomi Mi 11||74.6 x 164.3 x 8 (mm)||196g|
While there are larger versions available, the regular 6.2-inch Galaxy S21 we’re looking at here is pocketable and relatively small compared to the majority of Android phones. You can just about use it with one hand, something you won’t be saying about the 6.81-inch Xiaomi Mi 11…
Aside from the notable size difference, the Xiaomi pips the Galaxy S21 in terms of materials. To achieve the lower price when compared to the outgoing Galaxy S20, the S21 ditches the glass back for plastic. With the Mi 11, you’re getting a glass phone on the front and back.
While we’ll need to properly review the Mi 11 to judge for sure, it does seem like the Xiaomi flagship might win out when it comes to screen quality. While both OLED panels support HDR10+, have a 120Hz refresh rate and over 1000 nits of sustained brightness, the Mi 11 ups the resolution from the S21’s 1080p to 1440p. The Mi 11 is fat more curved too, with the Galaxy S21 going for the flat look.
Both phones rely solely on USB-C for connectivity, utilise Gorilla Glass Victus and house the front camera in a small cutout. The only one of the two to pack an IP rating is the Galaxy S21, with the Xiaomi Mi 11 only boasting resistance to mild splashes.
Specs and Performance – Snapdragon 888 leads the show
- Both phones are powered by Qualcomm’s 2021 Snapdragon 888 chipset
- You’ll find three cameras on the back of both with 8K video support
- No expandable storage on either
There are lots of similarities between these two phones when it comes to internals. Both are powered by the Snapdragon 888 (the UK version of the S21 packs the Exynos 2100), eschew expandable storage completely and come with 8GB RAM and up to 256GB storage.
You’ll also find Wi-Fi 6, 5G support and both wired and wireless charging along with heavily skinned versions of Android.
In terms of actual battery life, the Xiaomi Mi 11 has a bigger 4600mAh cell. However, there’s a lot more to power than the 4000mAh has to do on the S21.
You will find much quicker charging on the Mi 11 though, and it’s the only one to actually come with a charger. The Mi 11 offers 55w wired and 50w wireless, which is a lot faster than the 25w (wired) and 15w (wireless) you’ll find on the S21.
Flip the phones over and you’ll find cameras aplenty. Both have three sensors, however the approach is very different.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a main 12MP sensor, another 12MP sensor with an ultra-wide lens a final 64MP sensor with a ‘tele’ lens for added zoom skills. This is a good setup, even if it’s very similar to the Galaxy S20.
Switching over to the Xiaomi Mi 11, this actually has a 108MP Samsung HMX main camera, paired with a 13MP ultra wide and a 5MP macro camera. 8K video can be shot by both and they also support HDR 10+ recording at 4K.
Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Xiaomi Mi 11: Early Impressions
We already know the Galaxy S21 is one of the best phones around, even if it’s a minimal upgrade and has lost out on features we enjoyed on the S20.
With the Mi 11, you’re getting a bigger, more pixel-dense display and an all-glass design for less money. We’ll have to review the Mi 11 fully before delivering a final verdict, but it does look like a tempting prospect.